India

Realme 5 series launches with quad-camera setup

Affordable, yet powerful

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Realme and Xiaomi have been on a launch spree this year, each trying to undercut the other. The two are focused on grabbing as much market share as possible and have practically taken over the affordable segment. Realme is back with another set of offering, the Realme 5 and 5 Pro.

The Realme 5 series has been launched in India and shall be available in other international markets soon. This comes just a day before Xiaomi is scheduled to launch the Mi A3.

To start with, the phone has a new design that imitates holographic color with texture. The sides are gently curved and two color options are available — Crystal Green and Crystal Blue.

The front has a 6.3-inch Full HD LCD display with a claimed screen-to-body ratio of more almost 91 percent. The notch is smaller and houses the front camera as well as a sensor array. The complete design is splash resistant but lacks an IP rating.

Powering the phone is an octa-core Snapdragon 712 processor with a dedicated AI-engine. It has up to 8GB RAM and 128GB internal storage that’s expandable via a micro SD card. For gaming enhancement, Hyperboost 2.0 is a software feature that improves refreshing and frame drops.

48MP camera on a quad-camera setup

The rear has a quad-camera setup consisting of a 48-megapixel Sony IMX586 primary lens, an 8-megapixel wide-angle sensor, a 2-megapixel macro lens, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. The front gets a 16-megapixel selfie shooter. The software comes with various shooting modes like Nightscape, Chromaboost, and auto HDR.

Backing these internals is a 4000mAh battery that supports VOOC 3.0 Flash Charge. The phone runs on ColorOS 6.0 based on Android 9 Pie out-of-the-box.

Pricing and availability

It’s available in three memory configurations. The 4GB+64GB option costs INR 13,999 the 6GB+64GB variant costs INR 14,999 and the 8GB+128GB variant costs INR 16,999. They’ll be going on sale from September 4 via Flipkart and other partner channels.

On the other hand, the Realme 5 comes with a similar design language, but sports a 6.5-inch HD+ display. Powering the phone is a Snapdragon 665 processor with 4GB RAM in the top offering.

The quad-camera array consists of a 12-megapixel primary sensor, 8-megapixel wide-angle lens, 2-megapixel macro shooter, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. The front gets a 13-megapixel selfie clicker and all other software features remain same. Backing these internals is a 5000mAh battery.

It’ll also be available in three options. The first one comes with 3GB+32GB configuration and costs INR 9,999 the 4GB+64GB option costs INR 10,999, and the 4GB+128GB unit costs INR 11,999. It’ll be available from August 27 also via Flipkart and other partner channels.

Lastly, Realme has announced it’ll launch a new phone in September that sports a 64-megapixel camera, dubbed the Realme XT.

India

Vivo U20 review: The most powerful budget phone right now

More capable than its Xiaomi and Realme counterparts

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In late September of 2019, vivo announced a new budget smartphone called the vivo U10. It was powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 665 — the same processor found on two of the most popular budget phones at that time: the Redmi Note 8 and the Realme 5.

Vivo’s entry into that very competitive price segment was a pretty good success. Just right after, competition came up with newer models at a slightly higher price segment and so did vivo with the slightly more premium U20.

With Snapdragon 675 running under the hood, the vivo U20 has a slight edge over its competition. But is there more to this phone? Here’s our full review.

Ordinary but solid design

With a 6.53-inch display, the Vivo U20 is a big phone that doesn’t feel bulky. It’s worth noting that vivo went with a full HD+ panel on the U20 instead of the HD+ panel found on the U10. The bump in resolution is much appreciated, as well as the wide viewing angles. The display is bright enough for outdoors or sunny days.

The front of the phone has an odd ridge against the curved frame, making it feel a little uncomfortable when you’re holding it, but it shouldn’t be an issue if you use the bundled case.

Its glossy back catches fingerprints quite easily. You’ll have to keep wiping it clean if you’re particular about smudges and grime, so the case definitely comes in handy.

You’ll find the vivo branding in landscape orientation, with the triple camera module and LED flash along the same line. There’s also the rear mounted fingerprint scanner. It’s smaller than what I’m used to and is placed a bit too high for comfortable use, but it works well and works fast.

On the right side of the phone are the power and volume buttons, and on the left is the hybrid SIM card tray for two nano SIM cards or one SIM card and one microSD card. At the bottom a 3.5mm headphone jack, loudspeaker grille, microphone, and sadly, a microUSB port.

The Vivo U20 is available in two colors: Racing Black and and Blaze Blue. The unit we have is Racing Black.

Capable gaming phone at such a good price

The vivo U20’s internals are actually pretty impressive. The Snapdragon 675 is a pretty powerful processor, especially at this price point. It’s able to handle multi-tasking and gaming with no lag or issues at all. It’s interesting to see vivo come out with it at the same price point as the Redmi Note 8 and Realme 5, which are powered by the much less capable Snapdragon 665.

Coupled with either 4GB or 6GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, gaming with the U20 is a good experience. I played PUBG Mobile on the high preset with graphics set to HD, and frame rate set to high; and hey, I had zero issues — no lag, no stutters.

Just like other phones running on Snapdragon 675, it does get a little warm when you’re playing games after about 20 or so minutes.

Ultra Game mode lets you block incoming notifications and automatically answer phone calls in hands-free mode when you’re playing games. There’s also an off-screen Autoplay feature which lets you run a game even with the display switched off.

Nifty software features you’ll either love or hate

The vivo U20 runs Funtouch OS 9.2 on top of Android 9 Pie out of the box. There a little bit of bloatware pre-installed like Gaana, Amazon, Opera, and a couple more, but you can easily uninstall most of them.

FunTouch OS is something you’ll either love or hate depending on your preference. If you’ve used it before you’ll be familiar with the slight oddities. Otherwise there are a few things you’ll need to get used to that’s not found on other Android smartphones.

For example, you’ll need to swipe up from the bottom of the screen to access the quick toggles which is the exact opposite of the action on every other Android smartphone. If that’s not to your liking, you change it to a swipe down from the upper right corner of the phone — similar to how it is on iOS.

There’s also vivo’s smart assistant Jovi which can recognize products you point the camera at. It can also remind you to drink water every day so you don’t have to install a third party app. Overall, it’s not really much more useful than Google Assistant.

A few features I like are raise-to-wake, the ability to launch apps by drawing alphabets on the lockscreen, and a Motorbike mode. There’s also dark mode and gesture navigation.

Average camera performance

The vivo U20 has a triple camera setup: a 16MP primary camera with a Sony IMX499 sensor, 8MP ultra wide angle lens and a 2MP macro lens. Up front, there’s a 16MP selfie camera.

Vivo’s camera app is hasn’t changed much recently. It has a variety of modes, including night mode, portrait mode, live photo, AR stickers, along with the usual timelapse and panorama. There’s also a pro mode for those who like to tweak their camera settings.

 

The vivo U20 is quick to focus and handles exposure well. Daytime images look pretty good in the gallery app. You’ll notice that they do suffer in terms of details when you zoom into them. There’s a tiny bit of grain that sweeps into each photo as well.

Portrait photos has pretty good edge detection. Photos come out with a good amount of detail and a natural level of bokeh. There’s also a separate bokeh mode where you can adjust the level of blur. The results are pretty good, too.

The ultra wide angle camera suffers from the same distortion at the edges and lack of details that we see on other phones at this price range.

Low light photos aren’t great unfortunately. There’s a real lack of details and a lot of grain. The dedicated night mode does help get brighter images, but they aren’t that much better. There’s also no image stabilization so you’ll want to stay really still if you’re using the night mode to take photos.

Great battery life

The vivo U20 is powered by a massive 5,000 mAh battery, and that translates to great battery life. You can use this phone for a day and a half on a single charge before you’ll need to reach for the charger.

On a day of heavy usage, with a bit of gaming, a couple shots on the camera, and the usual bits of social media and Whatsapp, I still had plenty of battery life percentage left when I got home at the end of the day.

Despite the gigantic battery, charging the U20 doesn’t take too long either. The bundled 18W Dual-Engine fast charger got the phone up from zero to over 30 percent in half an hour, reaching about 60 to 70 percent in one hour. A charge to 100 percent takes about an hour and 45 minutes.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

No one expected vivo to come out of nowhere and suddenly be this strong of a contender in this aggressive entry-level price segment. This is a company that lately have been pumping out more expensive smartphones, and what we have here is an entry level smartphone that is pretty premium for its price.

Its powerful processor and great battery life are great; if only the camera were better. And if we are to nitpick, we would have loved to not have seen a microUSB port on this phone.

If you’re on a budget and are looking for the most powerful phone in the INR 10,990 price range (US$ 155), the Vivo U20 is your best option right now.

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Amazon to invest $1 billion in India’s small businesses

Jeff Bezos is convinced it’s time to double down

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Jeff Bezos is visiting India and Amazon has organized a conference to announce their plans and goals for the regional market. Dubbed “Smbhav”, it’s a collaborative event for small and medium businesses and will see the participation of senior industry executives.

Bezos said the global online retailer will invest US$ 1 billion in digitising India’s small and medium businesses. He also said the company is eyeing scaling locally produced products from India — in line with the Make in India program — to be of US$ 10 billion size on Amazon platform by 2025.

“We are doing this now because it is working. And when something works you should double down on it,” Bezos said.

The news comes just after the Competition Commission of India (CCI), started an investigation into anti-competitive practices of Amazon and its Walmart-owned rival Flipkart earlier this week.

An Amazon executive said the company has amassed over 500,000 sellers in India and thousands of merchants in the country who are selling on 12 Amazon marketplaces around the world.

India is a lucrative market for internet companies because of extremely cheap data rates and easy availability of affordable smartphones. With a population of 1.3 billion people, the potential is unmatchable. Especially because China’s markets are closed by an internal firewall and the developed markets are highly saturated.

The country is Amazon’s largest bet outside its home market and currently at the cutting edge of digital payments. In India, Amazon is able to set up a highly scaled operations unit, ensuring lower costs and better reach.

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POCO is now officially an independent brand

No longer affiliated with Xiaomi

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Xiaomi has announced it’s spinning off POCO as an independent brand. This means the brand will now operate on its own. POCO started in 2018 as a sub-brand of Xiaomi and the parent company has decided to bring in structural changes.

POCO branding is active in India while all other markets get Pocophone. The brand is famous for its POCO F1, an affordable phone that packs a flagship-grade processor. The phone’s arrival created a completely new category of smartphones that are built to be inexpensive, yet offer unmatchable speed.

However, POCO took the backseat in 2019 while Xiaomi rained the markets with Redmi branded phones. Fans have been asking about POCO F1’s successor ever since and the parent company consistently stayed silent about the sub-brand’s future.

Rival brand Realme was also formed as an independent company but is able to leverage OPPO’s infrastructure as “partners”. Having complete independence, the company can operate on its own and decide its own strategy. This structural divide let Realme form a new identity and within no time, it reckoned with Xiaomi as India’s leading mobile vendor.

There were reports in the second half of 2019 that suggested Xiaomi might ditch the POCO brand completely. It’s safe to say that isn’t happening anymore. POCO’s social media handles have been actively announcing discounts and deals on the POCO F1, suggesting a new product could be on the way soon.

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